Photos & story by Shannon Shumaker
I remember the first time I saw letlive. live like it was yesterday. It was back in 2010 during the band’s outing with Oh Sleeper, The Bled and A Plea For Purging. I was a fan of every band on the bill except for the opener, who happened to be this chaotic, hard to classify band from Los Angeles called letlive. I knew nothing about them aside from the fact that my boyfriend had heard from a mutual friend that they were good, so we showed up early and were blown away by their wild performance - one that frontman Jason Aalon Butler spent the majority of in the pit, rather than on stage. I went to that show for the headliners, but walked away more excited about the opener than anyone else. We introduced ourselves to Jason after the show, he accepted us with open arms and we went our separate ways. I bought Fake History that night as soon as I got home.
Flash forward a little over a year, and I was waiting excitedly outside of the same venue to catch letlive. alongside Enter Shikari. It was at that show that I met Jordan Garza, a fellow aspiring photographer and someone that I’m still glad to call my friend to this day, and this was the first of many friendships that I would find through a mutual love for letlive. I look forward to every time their former merch guy, Jesus Martinez comes through town, even if he hasn’t toured with the band in a few years, and I cherish the relationship I formed a few years ago with Jordan Altergott, a teenager who was inspired by their music and is now an incredibly talented concert photographer and someone who challenges the way I think and conduct myself on a daily basis.
It seems that wherever this band went, they touched people, and there’s no question why. Although the first thing many people talk about when discussing letlive. is their crazy live performances, there’s much more to the band than that. letlive. have always been the first to touch on subjects that might be incredibly personal, sensitive or taboo, from Fake History’s emotional “Muther” to If I’m The Devil…’s politically charged lead single, “Good Mourning, America.” They strive to start conversations among their forward thinking fans, and in turn, they harbor friendship and community. Jason, Ryan, Jeff, Loniel, and even former members that I was glad to get to know were always happy to talk to fans before, during and after their shows. There were multiple times that I watched as Jason had to be pulled away from meaningful conversations with strangers, apologizing profusely because the band had five minutes until they had to play and he needed to be on stage. It was for these reasons that letlive. quickly became my favorite band. It was because, over a year after meeting Jason briefly outside of The Marquis Theater, he still remembered me and asked how one of our mutual friends was doing.
Since then, I’ve been glad to catch letlive. every single time they’ve come through Colorado. As I started pursuing concert photography, they were one of the first bands to support me without question, always genuinely interested in what aspirations I had and where I wanted my career to take me. Sure, you can’t talk about letlive. without mentioning their chaotic and cathartic live shows. Jason would fling himself off of the stage, climb on balconies and leap into the crowd, he has even put himself in the hospital because of his wild stage antics. Before long, my friends and I would joke about it, wondering what trouble Jason was going to get himself into whenever the band played a new venue in Denver. Do you think he’ll climb on those rafters? (He did.)
But letlive. was always and will always be so much more than that. Their music means something. They challenged stereotypes and pushed boundaries, which is way more punk rock than punching out a window and having to finish tour in a sling. The reason so many people were touched by letlive. was because of their willingness to try something new, their lack of fear and their transparent honesty. Hearing an emotional speech at every single show before the band dove into “Muther,” a song that clearly held many different meanings for them throughout their career, meant so much more than watching Jeff break his guitar or Jason leap into Loniel’s kit (although that was pretty fun, too.)
I’m going to miss letlive. I think we all are. But this beautiful sense of community, these strong friendships and the spark they ignited to make a change do not cease to exist just because letlive. is no longer. You are letlive. We are letlive., and I think I speak for every letlive. fan when I say that they’ve changed my life for the best. I know this got really sappy, but guys, if you’re reading this, thank you.
We’ll be okay.